Examiner wins investigative gold at annual press awards

Don Dodd, Sharon Brooks, Chad Cooper, Jennifer Johnson, Joshua Cobb, Kevin King

When the Press Club of Southeast Texas opens entries for the best investigative reports, eligible candidates from Southeast Texas’ daily newspapers, non-daily newspapers and magazines vie for the coveted honor of earning top distinction. At a ceremony held Friday, June 8, The Examiner secured both the first and second place awards in the highly competitive category.

City Editor Sharon Brooks won first place for “Predatory Lending,” an article that exposed lending companies that initially contact property owners offering “relief” to those delinquent on taxes while foreclosing on homes all over Jefferson County. Brooks’ report revealed more than 40 lawsuits filed against local residents over the prior four years representing millions of dollars in assets on the line.

Supported by court data, homeowner accounts, attorney viewpoints, and even commentary from elected officials, with first-hand accounts coupled with verifiable evidence, Brooks’ article highlighted the problem.

Thanks to Brooks, the community is aware. In addition to the local Press Club award, “Predatory Lending” also garnered a second place designation for Investigative/Special Reports at the National Newspaper Association awards.

The second place investigative story was Supervising Editor Jennifer Johnson’s “Unbelievable,” an article delving into residency status – or lack thereof – of Beaumont mayoral candidate Hani Tohme.

Johnson also took first place for Best Feature Story in a non-daily.  Ella “Faye” Ford Woodsmall never intended to make history, but she did. As the first female officer to make the force, she was a pioneer at the Beaumont Police Department, serving as a “she-ro” and role model for little girls who wanted to pursue the same career path. And Woodsmall did it all for her children. 

Brooks again shined in the open category Special Reports with “Dying to Get High” earning another first-place award, with “Unregistered Sex Offenders” taking second and “The Deception” rounding out the top three.

Sports and entertainment Editor Chad Cooper with a first place in the Sports Column category and his phenomenal High School Football magazine took third place honors for Special Publications at the local Press Club award ceremony, eclipsed by the first-place national award given to the same annual magazine.

And then there were more. The Examiner and its staff was also awarded first place for Overall Excellence and various other awards in news, business, features, faith-based, and environmental writing categories; a second place for Harvey coverage even when competing with all media, TV included; and awards for page layout and design, editorials and photography.

Southeast Texas Vital Signs won top honors in the magazine category with first place for Overall Excellence. Vital Signs is The Examiner’s medical journal covering important topics that impact Southeast Texans’ health and well-being. Beaumont Business Journal and Southeast Texas Vital Signs Editor Kevin King also won first place awards for News in a Magazine and for Best Business Story in Vital Signs competing against all print media in an open category, and second place magazine feature story.

King’s award-winning news article featured in Vital Signs, “Blocking Out the Pain,” describes in detail an innovative medical procedure at Baptist Hospital that could alleviate pain associated with migraine headaches. King’s interviews with medical professionals, one of whom suffers from migraines himself following head trauma, offer insight into the procedure and its effects from first-hand points of view.

King won Best Business Story for the Vital Signs article “Meet the Medics,” which introduced readers to Acadian Ambulance paramedics, who granted a glimpse into their field with personal accounts of on-the-job encounters. Interviews with the medics revealed difficulties and triumphs they have experienced while performing their emotionally charged jobs as first responders. The piece provides those considering the job its pros and cons from real paramedics who are on the job every day – and every night, one of whom said, “If you’re looking for a Monday-Friday, 8-5 gig, you’re in the wrong spot.”